When you end a relationship, there are lots of ways in which you can cut ties from an ex — like giving their belongings back and stashing away your photographs together where you won't see them. But what about when it comes to Instagram and Snapchat? Is following your ex on social media healthy? Ultimately, the answer depends on the conditions around your breakup, whether or not you've moved on from the relationship, and your current emotional state. However, experts agree that it's worth getting real and asking yourself a few key questions to determine whether continuing to follow your former boo is the best move for you.
Let's start by stating the obvious here: Following your ex on social media means a constant stream of reminders about a relationship you no longer have. So, if you're not over them, it's probably not a great idea to expose yourself to that. Healing from a breakup is a whole lot easier when you aren't seeing your ex's life updates on the daily — especially if they are seemingly moving on with someone new, which can be painful to watch.
"The frequent reminders of the person, the tracking of their lives, keeps us from mourning the loss of the relationship," explains clinical psychologist Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. "The result is being stuck in between being with them and moving forward."
It's time to ask yourself, "How do I feel after seeing my ex's posts?" If you're indifferent or your mood isn't negatively affected in any way, then it's probably fine to keep following them. However, licensed clinical social worker Melanie Shapiro says that if coming across your ex's latest pic or status update triggers feelings of depression or anxiety, and you find that you're unable to regulate your mood, then that's a red flag that following them may be unhealthy.
One of the problems with social media is that it's not an accurate depiction of what's actually going on in a person's life — it's a curated, filtered version of reality. As a result, Klapow points out that your ex's feed may paint a skewed picture of how they're living, what their love life is like, and who they're becoming.
"The result is an influence on emotions that is not fully grounded in reality," he adds. "Time, distance and moving forward in new relationships can serve as a buffer, but it is very difficult to maintain a good sense of balance if contact with an ex is only through following them on social media."
While you're at it, Klapow advises asking yourself why you're following them. If your answer is "just to see what they're up to" or "to make sure they're doing OK," you may want to dig deeper and make sure there isn't a potentially destructive underlying intention.
"If you find yourself checking on their activity multiple times a week, then you are likely engaged in an unhealthy pattern of behavior where you are preventing yourself from moving forward with your life," he says. "False hope, obsession, desire to stay relevant in their lives are all the deeper, more honest responses. It’s hard getting over an ex, but staying connected on social media only prolongs the transition period."
For the record, it's not a good idea to keep following your ex if you're simply looking for more reasons to fuel your post-breakup anger or outrage. Aimee Daramus, licensed clinical psychologist and author of Understanding Bipolar Disorder: The Essential Family Guide, says that will often trigger you to leave comments and send messages you later regret.
"Feeding your pain is a way of staying in the relationship because you'll want to keep confronting them or talking about it when there's no reason to," she explains. "So, if either of you feels like causing drama, keeping off of each other's social media is a must. Tweets can live forever, and that drama could come back to haunt you."
Another factor you'll want to consider is whether or not you're mutually following each other, or whether they've unfollowed you. According to Daramus, keeping tabs on an ex who clearly doesn't want to stay up to date on your life can be unhealthy.
While experts agree across the board that removing your ex from your social media can be a healthy move, that's not to say that there aren't situations in which it's OK to keep following them. For example, if there were no hard feelings and it was a mutual and amicable breakup, you may find that having them pop up in your feed once in a while isn't painful after all. According to Shapiro, if following your ex doesn't cause you to feel jealous, resentful, sad, angry, or otherwise negatively affect your mental or emotional state, then following them probably isn't problematic.
"Ask yourself if you can move on and eventually find someone new with this person still in your life," says Daramus. "If so, you might be ready to follow each other."
Since it's rare for two people who just broke up to feel instantly ready to be friends, Daramus adds that it's extremely important to be brutally honest with yourself about what you're capable of right now. If you still have lingering romantic feelings for your ex, that's totally normal and understandable — but if you know that following them will only prolong those feelings or cause you pain, then show yourself some kindness and compassion and consider eliminating them from your social media sightline. The true test? Pondering how you'll feel if someone new starts showing up in their posts.
"If you're ready to see them dating someone else and be OK with it, you might be ready to be friends," says Daramus.
So, what if you're still not sure whether following your ex is healthy? Across the board, experts say that when in doubt, just unfollow them — even if only temporarily.
“It will enable you to be more present in your current life situation and be more open to a future relationship rather than harboring and being engaged in the past," explains Shapiro.
Klapow notes that you can even give your ex a heads up to let them know you're unfollowing them so that you can move on with your life. If you think you might be open to friendship down the line, Daramus points out that you can always see if your ex is OK with exchanging follows later on when you're both ready.
"The breakup doesn't have to be toxic for it to be a bad idea to follow each other," she tells Elite Daily. "It's totally OK to need space to grow apart. You can always follow each other again in the future once you've moved on emotionally, though many people find that after long enough, they don't feel the need."
Clearly, there's no cut-and-dry answer on whether or not following your ex is healthy — only you can figure that out based on your intention and the way it makes you feel. If their presence on your feed isn't a hindrance to your healing process, then keeping tabs may be totally fine. If you know that following them is preventing you from moving forward, however, then it's time to give yourself a fair shot at a happy future by shutting out all those reminders of the past.
Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist
Aimee Daramus, licensed clinical psychologist
Melanie Shapiro, licensed clinical social worker